CASE CLOSED … what really happened in the 2001 anthrax attacks?

* NAS continues to stonewall, will not provide FBI-submitted documents nor state reasons for not providing

Posted by DXer on December 10, 2009

CASE CLOSED is a novel which answers the question “Why did the FBI fail to solve the 2001 anthrax case?” … Here’s what readers say about CASE CLOSED …

“CASE CLOSED is entirely too plausible and is probably just te tip of the iceberg on what else was covered up.”

“Fiction?? Maybe?? But I don’t think so!! More likely an excellent interpretation of what may have really happened.”

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Lew’s Correspondence with NAS





Lew to NAS Oct 30, 2009 …

I have been asking you for the past two months to provide legal authority for the decision to sequester and withhold FBI-submitted documents until the end of the study. You have indicated twice that you had referred the matter to NAS counsel.

Now we have the NAS/FBI contract document, which provides no legal justification for withholding the FBI-submitted documents until the end of the study or for failing to provide the specific exemptions for any documents NAS is currently withholding.

Could you please provide an update on current NAS intentions by answering the following questions …

Temporarily withholding FBI-submitted documents until the end of the study.

  • Does NAS still plan to withhold some or all FBI-submitted documents until the end of the study?
  • If so, will NAS provide a list of withheld FBI-submitted documents?
  • If NAS is planning to withhold some or all FBI-submitted documents until the end of the study but release them at that time, what legal authority does NAS cite for doing so?

Permanently withholding access to FBI-submitted documents.

  • Will NAS provide a list of any FBI-submitted documents which NAS is intending to permanently restrict from access, indicating in each case the specific exemption which is being cited to justify that action?

Thanks for your assistance in this matter.

Lew to NAS Dec 8, 2009 …

It is utterly incredible to me, and very disappointing, that you, and thus the NAS, have simply ignored the questions I have asked regarding the FBI-submitted information.  If you have reasons for not releasing information, why not state them?  Do you have any intention of ever responding, even if only to tell me that in your judgment my questions are inappropriate?

NAS to Lew Dec 9, 2009 …

per earlier statement, the material is exempt from mandatory public release under the Freedom of Information Act, but we have agreement with FBI to make it public when our report is released: The study committee expects to receive thousands of pages of material from the F.B.I. in the course of its study. Some has already been received; more will be coming as the study progresses. Much of this material is exempt from mandatory release to the public under the Freedom of Information Act. However, we have an agreement with the F.B.I. that all of the material will be made available to the public at the same time that our report is released, so that everyone will be able to review the information that was available to the committee in reaching its conclusions.


NAS continues to avoid stating the specific FOIA exemption, and does not state any basis for withholding information until the end of the study.

8 Responses to “* NAS continues to stonewall, will not provide FBI-submitted documents nor state reasons for not providing”

  1. DXer said

    The NAS was supposed to review the science relied upon by the FBI and yet apparently never heard testimony on the isotope research so as to review the FBI’s conclusion that it was inconclusive.

    While water isotopic analysis was researched, the FBI concluded that there were too many confounding variables to precisely match bacteria that were grown using different materials and recipes. This technique “was not relevant to the investigation.”

    The FBI scientists have been able to distinguish between water isotopes ratios in the anthrax. Brian Williams reports that investigators have told NBC that the water used to make the spores came from the Northeastern United States. Researchers have been able to establish that anthrax grown in water in the Northeastern United States is distinguishable from anthrax grown in water from the Southeast and Pacific Northwest. In one published anthrax study, researchers grew Bacillus subtilis, a harmless bacteria that resembles Bacillus anthracis, using local water from five different US. cities. The scientists were able to distinguish those grown in various cities. The method can be used to narrow the number of possible origins of the water based on the number of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes. Ft. Detrick made its own de-ionized water (as do all military labs apparently). The FBI’s expert James Ehleringer advises me that “there are regional stable isotope ratios for drinking water, including many locally-bottled waters. If de-ionization is completed by a reverse-osmosis process, then the isotope ratios of the de-ionized and pre-de-ionized waters should be the same.” Dr. Ehrlinger explained the research in an NPR interview in 2004. Interviewer Kestenbaum said: “Ehleringer is now creating a map showing how the isotope ratios of water vary anthrax was grown, it may rule some places out.”

    In January 2009, the New York Times claimed without naming or describing a source that of 60 waters tested only one had the unique
    chemical signature of the mailed anthrax — that of Frederick, Maryland. But Dr. Bannan at the ASM Biodefense Conference confirmed that dramatic report was incorect.

    The authors of one of the key articles specifically noted that they couldn’t distinguish between North Carolina and Ohio. Similarly, they can’t distinguish between Central New Jersey and North Carolina. The key studies in the peer reviewed literature indicate that they were funded by the Central Intelligence Agency.

    Separately, a press release announced in September 2003 that University of Maryland researchers have developed a technique to help the FBI track the origins of deadly anthrax spores by identifying the medium used to grow it. The FBI asked Maryland professor Catherine Fenselau to turn her mass spectrometry lab to the forensic task of sleuthing how bacillus spores, such as anthrax, are prepared. While the Utah scientist in this study was looking at the tap water, Helen W. Kreuzer-Martin, the Maryland scientist studied culture medium.

    The NAS should hear Dr. Ehrlinger and Dr. Kreuzer-Martin and assess the FBI’s conclusion that it was not relevant to the investigation.

    • DXer said

      Similarly, the NAS should review the Federal Eagle issue also. Some might argue that it is not cutting-edge science. But fingerprint analysis is not either and the example of Attorney Mayfield shows that everyone can benefit from having experts review their work even when the scientific principles are not cutting-edge.

      A government investigator explains:

      “Approximately 45 million Federal eagle 6 3/4″ envelopes were manufactured by Wastvaco Corporation … of Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, between December 6, 2000 and March 2002. These Federal eagle 6 3/4″ envelopes were manufactured exclusively for and sold solely by the U.S. Postal Service between January 8, 2001 and June 2002.” “[Envelopes with printing defects identical to printing defects identified on the envelopes utilized in the anthrax attacks during the fall of 2001 were collected from the Fairfax Main post office in Fairfax, Virginia and the Cumberland and Elkton post offices in Maryland. The Fairfax Main, Cumberland, Maryland, and Elkton, Maryland post offices are supplied by the Dulles Stamp Distribution Office (SDO), located in Dulles, Virginia. The Dulles SDO distributed “federal eagle” envelopes to post offices throughout Maryland and Virginia. Given that the printing defects identified on the envelopes were used in the attacks are transient, thereby being present on only a small population of the federal eagle envelopes produced, and that envelopes with identical printing defects to those identified on the envelopes used in the attacks were recovered from post offices serviced by the Dulles SDA, it is reasonable to conclude that the federal eagle envelopes utilized in the attacks were purchased from a post office in Maryland or Virginia.”

      The use of this issue was especially galling because US Attorney Taylor relied upon it heavily and made it seem that Dr. Ivins’ Post Office uniquely sold the envelope when, in fact, even under the FBI’s evidence it was sold throughout Maryland and Virginia. We have not yet even seen evidence that they pulled envelopes from across the country. Rather than being a review of the FBI’s science the NAS is turning out to be a review of certain aspects of the FBI’s science that the FBI selectively chooses to discuss.

  2. DXer said

    Journal of Bacteriology, January 2010, p. 111-116, Vol. 192, No. 1

    The Silicon Layer Supports Acid Resistance of Bacillus cereus Spores
    Ryuichi Hirota et al.
    Department of Molecular Biotechnology, Graduate School of Advanced Sciences of Matter, Hiroshima University, Higashi-Hiroshima, Hiroshima 739-8530, Japan

    Silicon (Si) is considered to be a “quasiessential” element for most living organisms. However, silicate uptake in bacteria and its physiological functions have remained obscure. We observed that Si is deposited in a spore coat layer of nanometer-sized particles in Bacillus cereus and that the Si layer enhances acid resistance. The novel acid resistance of the spore mediated by Si encapsulation was also observed in other Bacillus strains, representing a general adaptation enhancing survival under acidic conditions.

  3. DXer said

    Video of spokesperson/consultant Dr. SA explaining how spore in dry form can remain in environment for years and then cause contamination when heroin is produced.

    Anthrax and Al Qaeda: The Infiltration Of US Biodefense

  4. DXer said

    I’ve been given a copy of one of the few questions Agent Persichini missed on the exam that is the subject of today’s headlines.

    It was a multiple choice question:

    Please state who you think was responsible for the anthrax mailings:
    (a) the guy who used fake screen names, hid things involving a crush on another woman from his wife, and edited Wikipedia;
    (b) the guy scratching for nightcrawlers in his backyard;
    (c) the guy who was really upset when his life’s work was seized, his friends were forbidden contact, and he was barred from the only workplace he had ever known;
    (d) the Salafist who was coordinating with 911 imam and Bin Laden’s sheik, fervently hoped for the destruction of Western Civilization, whose mentor Bilal Philips admits he recruited jihadis from the US military, and who shared a suite with the leading anthrax scientist and former deputy USAMRIID Commander — where those researchers as part of research involving the Ames strain co-invented a process to concentrate anthrax in the culture medium.

    The Amerithrax head chose (a), (b) and (c) and told journalist Lengel that he was 99% sure of his answer.

    He got that one wrong but it’s graded on a curve apparently at the FBI.

    In a filing unsealed this Spring, Dr. Ali Al-Timimi’s lawyer, Professor and MSNBC commentator Jonathan Turley, explained that his client “was considered an anthrax weapons suspect.” Al-Timimi was a computational biologist who came to have an office 15 feet from the leading anthrax scientist and the former deputy commander of USAMRIID. A motion filed in early August 2008 seeking to unseal additional information in federal district court was denied. The ongoing proceedings are highly classified.

    Dr. Al-Timimi’s counsel summarizes:
    “we know Dr. Al-Timimi:
    * was interviewed in 1994 by the FBI and Secret Service regarding his ties to the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing;
    * was referenced in the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing (“Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US”) as one of seventy individuals regarding whom the FBI is conducting full field investigations on a national basis;
    * was described to his brother by the FBI within days of the 9-11 attacks as an immediate suspect in the Al Qaeda conspiracy;
    * was contacted by the FBI only nine days after 9-11 and asked about the attacks and its perpetrators;
    *was considered an anthrax weapons suspect;
    * was described during his trial by FBI agent John Wyman as having “extensive ties” with the “broader al-Qaeda network”;
    * was described in the indictment and superseding indictment as being associated with terrorists seeking harm to the United States;
    * was a participant in dozens of international overseas calls to individuals known to have been under suspicion of Al-Qaeda ties like Al-Hawali; and
    * was associated with the long investigation of the Virginia Jihad Group.
    The conversation with [Bin Laden’s sheik] Al-Hawali on September 19, 2001 was central to the indictment and raised at trial. ***
    [911 imam] Anwar Al-Aulaqi goes directly to Dr. Al-Timimi’s state of mind and his role in the alleged conspiracy. The 9-11 Report indicates that Special Agent Ammerman interviewed Al-
    Aulaqi just before or shortly after his October 2002 visit to Dr. Al-Timimi’s home to discuss the attacks and his efforts to reach out to the U.S. government.

    [IANA head] Bassem Khafagi was questioned about Dr. Al-Timimi before 9-11 in Jordan, purportedly at the behest of American intelligence. [redacted ] He was specifically asked about Dr. Al-Timimi’s connection to Bin Laden prior to Dr. Al-Timimi’s arrest. He was later interviewed by the FBI about Dr. Al-Timimi. Clearly, such early investigations go directly to the allegations of Dr. Al-Timimi’s connections to terrorists and Bin Laden [redacted]”

    The letter attached as an exhibit notes that in March 2002 Al-Timimi spoke with Al-Hawali about assisting Moussaoui in his defense. Al-Hawali was Bin Laden’s sheik who was the subject of OBL’s “Declaration of War.” Moussaoui was the operative sent by Bin Laden to be part of a “second wave” who had been inquiring about crop dusters. The filing and the letter exhibit each copy defense co-counsel, the daughter of the lead prosecutor in Amerithrax. That prosecutor pled the Fifth Amendment concerning all the leaks hyping a “POI” of the other Amerithrax squad, Dr. Steve Hatfill. His daughter withdrew as Al-Timimi’s pro bono counsel on February 27, 2009.

    ‘Dr. Ali Al-Timimi’s Support Committee’ in an email to supporters dated April 5, 2005 explained: “This is a summary of the court proceedings that took place yesterday April 4th 2005. We will send a summary everyday inshallah. *** “In his opening statement, Defense attorney Edward B. MacMahon Jr. said that Al-Timimi was born and raised in Washington DC. He has a degree in Biology and he is also a computer scientist, and a mathematician. He worked for Andrew Card, who’s now the White House chief of staff, at the Transportation Department in the early 1990s.”

    Bruce Ivins had supplied the virulent Ames strain of anthrax to Ann Arbor researchers. One of the researchers, Dr. Hamouda, obtained his PhD in microbiology from Cairo Medical in 1994. He and his wife came to the United States to settle that year. By 1998, he was working on a DARPA-funded project involving nanoemulsions and a biocidal cream. In December 1999, he and two colleagues travelled to a remote military installation in Utah, Dugway, to test its effectiveness in killing aerosolized anthrax surrogates. An April 2001 report describing testing at Dugway concluded that the best performing decontamination agents were from University of Michigan, Sandia National Laboratories, and Lawrence Livermore Laboratory (LLNL).

    The FBI and CIA may have been concerned that there might have been unauthorized access to the Ames strain. That would explain their aggressive prosecution of various matters related to Al-Timimi’s charity, IANA, which was based in Ann Arbor 1 mile from the NanoBio office. IANA promoted the views of Bin Laden’s sheiks. Al-Timimi was IANA’s most celebrated speaker. He was in active contact with one of those sheiks, who had been Ali’s religious mentor at university in Saudi Arabia.

    Al-Timimi was a current associate and former student of Bin Laden’s spiritual advisor, dissident Saudi Sheik al-Hawali. Ali Al-Timimi preached on the end of times and the inevitability of the clash of civilizations. He was in active contact with al-Hawali whose detention had been the express subject of Bin Laden’s 1996 Declaration of War. At GMU, Dr. Bailey would publish a lot of research with the “Ames strain” of anthrax. The anthrax used in the anthrax mailings was traced to Bruce Ivins’ lab at USAMRIID, where Ivins, according to a former colleague, had done some work for DARPA. Al-Timimi would speak along with the blind sheik’s son at charity conferences. The blind sheik’s son served on Al Qaeda’s WMD committee. Al-Timimi’s mentor Bilal Philips was known for recruiting members of the military to jihad.

    The first week after 9/11, FBI agents questioned Al-Timimi. He was a graduate student in a program jointly run by George Mason University and the American Type Culture Collection (”ATCC”). Ali, according to his lawyer, had been questioned by an FBI agent and Secret Service agent in 1994 after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He had a high security clearance for work for the Navy in the late 1990s. The defense webpage reported he had once served as the assistant for the White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. (Mr. Card had been Secretary of Transportation in 1992-1993; from 1993 to 1998, Mr. Card later was President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Automobile Manufacturers Association.) As time off from his university studies permitted, Ali was an active speaker with the Ann Arbor-based charity Islamic Assembly of North America.

    A laptop evidencing Al Qaeda’s intent on weaponizing anthrax was seized in Baku in July 1998. Two months later, Dr. Ken Alibek, then Program Manager, Battelle Memorial Institute, testified before the Joint Economic Committee on the subject of “Terrorist and Intelligence Operations: Potential Impact on the U.S. Economy” about the proliferation of know-how. Dr. Alibek noted that “[t]here are numerous ways in which Russia’s biological weapons expertise can be proliferated to other countries.” Indeed. Sometimes such proliferation is funded by DARPA and any student who wanted to apply to work in the building could submit an application. One applicant accepted was this Salafist preacher seeing signs of the coming day of judgment and the inevitable clash of civilizations. He had been mentored by the sheik named in Bin Laden’s declaration of war in 1996. In 1999, Al-Timimi had a high security clearance for work for the Navy. His father worked at the Iraqi embassy.

    Dr. Alibek testified before the House Armed Services Committee Oversight Panel on Terrorism again in May 2000 about the issue of proliferation of biological weapons. He explained: “Terrorists interested in biological weapons are on the level of state-sponsored terrorist organizations such as that of Osama bin Laden; on the level of large, independent organizations such as Aum Shinrikyo; or on the level of individuals acting alone or in concert with small radical organizations.” Dr. Alibek in 2003 told me he knew Ali was a hardliner. More recently he described Ali as a fanatic. Dr. Alibek explained to the Congressional Committee in May 2000: “When most people think of proliferation, they imagine weapons export. In the case of biological weapons, they picture international smuggling either of ready-made weapons material, or at least of cultures of pathogenic microorganisms. However, this area of proliferation is of the least concern. Even without such assistance, a determined organization could obtain virulent strains of microorganisms from their natural reservoirs (such as soil or animals), from culture libraries that provide such organisms for research purposes, or by stealing cultures from legitimate laboratories.” American Type Culture Collection, the largest microbiologist depository in the world, co-sponsored Ali’s bioinformatics program. Dr. Alibek explained: “The proliferation issue is particularly complex for biological weapons. In many cases, the same equipment and knowledge that can be used to produce biological weapons can also be used to produce legitimate biotechnological products.”

    By 2001, Al-Timimi was allowed access to the most diverse microbiological repository in the world and allowed to work alongside staff at the DARPA-funded Center for Biodefense. The Center for Biodefense personnel were working under the largest biodefense award in history. Delta (avirulent) Ames was supplied by NIH. Raymond H. Cypess, president of the germ bank, said of the Ames strain, “We never had it,’ and we can say that on several levels of analysis.” ATCC refuses to confirm to me whether its patent repository, as distinguished rom its online category, had Ames, but we can assume government scientists would have ensured that the patent repository was considered at the same time as the online catalog and, to the best of their ability, excluded as a source of the Ames.

    Al-Timimi had supervised Cairo-based militants writing for the Pittsburgh-based Assirat and then for IANA. One of them, Kamal Habib, was the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and a friend of Ayman Zawahiri. The Cairo-based writers Kamal Habib and Gamal Sultan approached the blind sheik Abdel Rahman about starting a political party in early 1999. On March 1 and 2, 1999, Lynne Stewart and translator Yousry visited Abdel Rahman in prison in Rochester, Minnesota and relayed the proposal. On March 6, 1999, the first press reports about anthrax appeared quoting the blind sheik’s Cairo lawyer, Montasser al-Zayat, and detainees in a massive trial al-Zayat was defending. He explained that Ayman likely was going to use anthrax against US targets to retaliate against the rendering and detention of the Egyptian militants.

    On March 9, 1999 following the visit in prison at which the political idea had been proposed, Abdel Rahman issued a statement rejecting a proposal that the Islamic Group form a political party in Egypt. That day, the Islamic Group military commander Mustafa Hamza spoke with the blind sheik’s liaison, US Post Office employee Abdel Sattar. The next month, the Blind Sheik’s publicist Sattar spoke with Taha, the IG head close to the Taliban and Bin Laden, in a three-way call with Cairo attorney Al-Zayat. Sattar also spoke on the telephone with Vanguards of Conquest spokesman Al Sirri (based in London). From the beginning, the weaponization of anthrax for use against US targets was inextricably linked to the detention of senior militant Egyptian leaders, including the blind sheik.

  5. DXer said

    There mere fact that document production is not complete 15 months after the case was announced solved — over 4 months after the first meeting — says it all.

    The FBI paralegals must get their training from the USAMRIID FOIA officers.

  6. DXer said

    “Much of this material is exempt from mandatory release to the public under the Freedom of Information Act.”

    Lew is asking for the material that is NOT exempt from mandatory release — documents that are subject to mandatory release under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

    Lew, I would just accept that the NAS is not in compliance with FACA. So they will not get credit for complying with federal law, transparency, or avoiding conflict of interest. For example, the flow of documents is controlled by a Battelle employee and the former Collection Scientist of the ATTC Bacteriology Division, WMD Chief Majidi could not even bring himself, on advice of Dr. Burans, to utter the lab’s name.
    But that’s the only consequence. Those are the consequences of their failure to comply with the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

    After the NAS staff was paid $890,000 they can’t even be burdened by putting up the powerpoints online and instead are charging members of the public ($12.50 or whatever it is) for a single document. I would have happily credited their good sense and good faith if they uploaded the powerpoints — but apparently public relations is not a priority.

    BTW, who provided the statement? It is illogical on its face given you are asking for production of the non-exempt material. There is nothing in their agreement with the FBI — nor could there be — that restrains production of material required to be produced by FACA.

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